Where Are You On Your Cultural Intelligence Journey?

Where Are You On Your Cultural Intelligence Journey?

by Felicity Menzies

Individuals travel through several stages as they develop their Cultural Intelligence (CQ):


The CQ-Ignorant individual has not identified culture as an issue. People in this stage mindlessly respond according to their own cultural schemas. They may experience culture shock when faced with diversity, which can result in performance failure, interpersonal conflict and tension, anxiety, and exhaustion. Individuals in this stage display ethnocentrism and hold negative stereotypes toward diverse others.


The CQ-Aware individual has identified that culture is an issue. Individuals in this stage want to learn more about cultural differences and how they can overcome cultural problems.


The CQ-Learner seeks information, support, and resources to help improve their performance in diverse settings. They set development goals and undertake education, training, or mentoring in Cultural Intelligence to acquire the skills, knowledge, and abilities needed for intercultural success.


The CQ-Novice begins to apply their new CQ skills to diverse exchanges. Individuals in this stage are more mindful. They consciously try to suspend judgement and take the perspective of diverse others. They begin to practise new verbal and non-verbal behaviours, but with deliberate and conscious effort.


The CQ-Skilled individual continues to practise and refine their Cultural Intelligence. Eventually, with enough experience, they flex appropriately to different cultural contexts without conscious reflection. This automation is similar to a bicultural person’s ability to switch effortlessly between cultural frames depending on context.

Are we there yet?

Developing Cultural Intelligence is not always linear. A person typically cycles between stages three (CQ-Learner) and four (CQ-Novice) many times before reaching stage five (CQ-Skilled).

There is no limit to Cultural Intelligence. It is not a defined end goal mastered by following a number of steps. Cultural Intelligence is infinite. It grows over our lives as we continue to develop and refine our intercultural capability.

The development of Cultural Intelligence is best achieved through a combination of formal education and informal learning. Informal learning includes coaching or mentoring and hands-on experiences with other cultures.

Critically, Cultural Intelligence will not develop without intentional effort. It requires a long-term commitment on the part of the individual and should be supported by organisational factors, including leaders that model, encourage, and reward its development.

Ang, S., Van Dyne, L., & Tan, M. L. (2011). Cultural intelligence. In R. J. Sternberg & J. C. Kaufman (Eds.), Cambridge handbook on intelligence (pp. 582-602). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Ng, K. Y., Tan, M. L., & Ang, S. (2011). Global culture capital and cosmpolitan human capital: The effect of global mindset and organisational routines on cultural intelligence and international experience. In A. Burton-Jones & J. C. Spender (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Human Capital (pp. 96-119). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Thomas, D. C. (2006). Domain and development of cultural intelligence: The importance of mindfulness. Group & Organization Management, 31(1), 78-99.


Felicity Menzies is CEO and Principal Consultant at Include-Empower.Com, a diversity and inclusion consultancy with expertise in inclusive leadership, unconscious bias, cultural intelligence and inclusion, gender equity, empowering diverse talent. Felicity is an accredited facilitator with the Cultural Intelligence Centre and the author of A World of Difference. Felicity has over 15 years of experience working with and managing diverse workforces in blue chip companies and is a Fellow of Chartered Accountants of Australia and New Zealand. Felicity also holds a Bachelor of Commerce and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology.